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Choosing an African Dwarf Frog

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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The African dwarf frog is an aquatic creature, similar to the African clawed frog. They eat all manners of small worms and may survive in a tank with small tropical fish.

History and Origin

As their name implies, the dwarf frog originates from Africa. Many are now bred in captivity. There are two commonly available African dwarf frogs, Hymenochirus curtipes and Hymenochirus boettgeri. These frogs may be more readily available at aquarium departments than in the reptile and amphibian sections of pet stores. Aquarists often purchase them as an aquarium oddity. This poses no problem as long as the fish are too small to eat the frogs.

Although entirely aquatic, dwarf frogs have lungs and periodically rise to the water surface to gulp a breath of atmospheric air. Their water must be clean and chemical free.

When kept in a filtered aquarium and fed a varied diet, these are very hardy, usually trouble-free amphibians that are suitable for beginning hobbyists.

Appearance

The African dwarf frog is a thoroughly aquatic amphibian of small size and may be difficult to tell the two species apart. H. curtipes is the shorter-legged version with smooth large tubercles on the sides of their thighs. H. boettgeri has longer legs and prominent tubercules of varying sizes on the sides of their thighs. The body and head of both species are flattened, but not to the extreme of the related Suriname toad. The hind limbs are flattened but strong and the hind feet are broad and fully webbed. The forelimbs are weak and the feet are also fully webbed. These frogs are small and often confused with juvenile African clawed frogs. The front feet can help you learn the difference. Juvenile African clawed frogs do not have webbing on the fore feet. The African dwarf frog has webbed front feet and only reach about 1 1/2 inches in length.

Normally, these frogs are olive gray to olive brown. The skin of the back is rough and has a sprinkling of darker spots. This allows the frog to blend in well with his surroundings and this little creature can change the lightness or darkness of his skin based on the color of the surrounding area.

Behavior

Dwarf frogs are tropical and subtropical creatures that are active throughout the year. They are voracious feeders and food seems to be located primarily by scent and, perhaps, by touch. The eyes are small, directed dorsally, and vision seems weak. These aquatic frogs have well developed lungs and must surface periodically to gulp a breath of fresh air. These frogs thrive in most chemical-free tap waters. Do not keep them in distilled water.

Feeding

The diet of a dwarf frog can include bloodworms, blackworms and chopped up earthworms. They will also eat sinking prepared food. Since uneaten animal-protein based dietary items can quickly sour your water you must feed your dwarf frogs prudently.

Handling

The slimy skin and small size of the dwarf frog makes it very difficult to grasp them by hand. It is better to use a soft, wet net. Scoop up the frog and cover the mouth of the net with your free hand to prevent the frog from leaping free. Get the frog back into the water as quickly as possible.

Housing

Certainly not brightly colored, dwarf frogs are, nonetheless, interesting aquarium inhabitants. They can be kept either in a planted or a non-planted aquarium. If in the former, suitable lighting will need to be provided to stimulate plant survival and growth. Only plants with a strong root system should be used. A group of small tropical fish can be kept in an aquarium with dwarf frogs. When selecting fish to live with the frog you must make sure the fish are not too large and harass the frog. You must also be careful when feeding the frogs. The fish may eat everything before the frogs have a chance.

Most tap waters are suitable for these frogs. The water should be chemical-free and filtered and the temperature should be 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Periodic changing will be necessary. The more dwarf frogs in an aquarium, the more often the water will require changing.

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